Achievements and Challenges of Implementation in a Mature iCCM Programme: Malawi Case Study

Journal Article
  • Kirsten Zalisk
  • Tanya Guenther
  • Debra Prosnitz
  • Humphreys Nsona
  • Emmanuel Chimbalanga
  • Salim Sadruddin
Journal of Global Health
2019; Vol. 9, No. 1. DOI: 10.7189/jogh.09.010807

Background Malawi has a mature integrated community case management (iCCM) programme that is led by the Ministry of Health (MOH) but that still relies on donor support. From 2013 until 2017, under the Rapid Access Expansion (RAcE) programme, the World Health Organization supported the MOH to expand and strengthen iCCM services in four districts. This paper examines Malawi’s iCCM programme performance and implementation strength in RAcE districts to further strengthen the broader programme.

Methods Baseline and endline household surveys were conducted in iCCM-eligible areas of RAcE districts. Primary caregivers of recently-sick children under five were interviewed to assess changes in care-seeking and treatment over the project period. Health surveillance assistants (HSAs) were surveyed at endline to assess iCCM implementation strength.

Results Care-seeking from HSAs and treatment of fever improved over the project period. At endline, however, less than half of sick children were brought to an HSA, many caregivers reported a preference for providers other than HSAs, and perceptions of HSAs as trusted providers of high-quality, convenient care had decreased. HSA supervision and mentorship were below MOH targets. Stockouts of malaria medicines were associated with decreased care-seeking from HSAs. Thirty percent of clusters had limited or no access to iCCM (no HSA or an HSA providing iCCM services less than 2 days per week); 50% had moderate access (an HSA providing iCCM services 2 to 4 days per week; and 20% had high access (a resident HSA providing iCCM services 5 or more days per week). Moderate access to iCCM was associated with increased care-seeking from HSAs, increased treatment by HSAs, and more positive perceptions of HSAs compared to areas with limited or no access. Areas with high access to iCCM did not show further improvements above areas with moderate access.

Conclusions Availability of well-equipped and supported HSAs is critical to the provision of iCCM services. Additional qualitative research is needed to examine challenges and to inform potential solutions. Malawi’s mature iCCM programme has a strong foundation but can be improved to strengthen the continuity of care from communities to facilities and to ultimately improve child health outcomes.